Amazon finally released its long awaited Android-based tablet today: The Kindle Fire. It’s a true tablet, with a gorgeous IPS colour touch screen and enough power to run apps and play movies. This in itself is interesting enough, but what I find truly interesting is the form factor Amazon chose for its newest baby: 7 inch.
Given the fact that the Fire carries the Kindle family name and touts reading books and colour magazines as some of its main features, it makes sense that the Fire is about the same size as the classic Kindles. Its direct competitor Barnes & Noble did the same with their Nook Color. Still, there is something magical about this 7 inch form factor.
While “bigger is better” is surely when it’s about screen size for viewing, it becomes a factor when you are holding the device for a longer period of time. I like my first generation iPad, but with its 10 inches it is really quite heavy to hold with one hand.
What is worse, although Steve Jobs makes it look really easy to sit on a couch while browsing around, it is quite a hassle to type on the iPad’s on-screen keyboard. The iPad is simply too big to comfortably type on while holding the device. As a result, you either have to accept typing with one hand while holding the device with your other hand (which is slow), or you have to somehow prop up your iPad on your lap while typing (uncomfortable).
I’ve gotten quite skilled at typing with two thumbs on my iPhone in landscape mode, on the iPad this is simply impossible.
Microsoft actually has a clever solution for this in Windows 8: the Split Keyboard (pictured above), but I recently got my hands on a 7″ Barnes & Noble Nook (pictured below) and it fit my hands just beautifully. It was an absolute delight typing on the Nook. In portrait mode it is slightly wider than my iPhone in landscape mode, and I can reach all of the keys without any strain.
At 7″ it somehow seems like a different kind of thing than the iPad. At 1024×600 it is slightly less of a full-fledged browsing experience, but the screen is still big enough to comfortably read longer articles. It is also a lot more portable than an iPad, because it is smaller and lighter, but seems more sensible than an iPod Touch (which in my eyes is still a broken iPhone).
The Kindle Fire joins the 7-inch family previously made up by Barnes & Nobles’ Nook and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. Like the latter it has a GSM connection (whispernet) so it is always connected. All three tablets cost around $200, which is less than half of what an iPad costs. There is something magical about this seven inch format and I have a feeling there will be more to come.